Genesis 3

CHAPTER III

Satan, by means of a creature here called the serpent,

deceives Eve, 1-5.

Both she and Adam transgress the Divine command, and fall

into sin and misery, 6, 7.

They are summoned before God, and judged, 8-13.

The creature called the serpent is degraded and punished, 14.

The promise of redemption by the incarnation of Christ, 15.

Eve sentenced, 16.

Adam sentenced, 17.

The ground cursed, and death threatened, 18, 19.

Why the woman was called Eve, 20.

Adam and Eve clothed with skins, 21.

The wretched state of our first parents after their fall,

and their expulsion from the garden of Paradise, 22-24.

NOTES ON CHAP. III

Verse 1. Now the serpent was more subtle] We have here one of

the most difficult as well as the most important narratives in the

whole book of God. The last chapter ended with a short but

striking account of the perfection and felicity of the first human

beings, and this opens with an account of their transgression,

degradation, and ruin. That man is in a fallen state, the history

of the world, with that of the life and miseries of every human

being, establishes beyond successful contradiction. But how, and

by what agency, was this brought about? Here is a great mystery,

and I may appeal to all persons who have read the various comments

that have been written on the Mosaic account, whether they have

ever yet been satisfied on this part of the subject, though

convinced of the fact itself. Who was the serpent? of what kind?

In what way did he seduce the first happy pair? These are

questions which remain yet to be answered. The whole account is

either a simple narrative of facts, or it is an allegory. If it

be a historical relation, its literal meaning should be sought

out; if it be an allegory, no attempt should be made to explain

it, as it would require a direct revelation to ascertain the sense

in which it should be understood, for fanciful illustrations are

endless. Believing it to be a simple relation of facts capable of

a satisfactory explanation, I shall take it up on this ground;

and, by a careful examination of the original text, endeavour to

fix the meaning, and show the propriety and consistency of the

Mosaic account of the fall of man. The chief difficulty in the

account is found in the question, Who was the agent employed in

the seduction of our first parents?

The word in the text which we, following the Septuagint,

translate serpent, is nachash; and, according to Buxtorf

and others, has three meanings in Scripture. 1. It signifies to

view or observe attentively, to divine or use enchantments,

because in them the augurs viewed attentively the flight of birds,

the entrails of beasts, the course of the clouds, &c.; and under

this head it signifies to acquire knowledge by experience. 2. It

signifies brass, brazen, and is translated in our Bible, not only

brass, but chains, fetters, fetters of brass, and in several

places steel; see 2Sa 22:35 Job 20:24 Ps 18:34; and in one

place, at least filthiness or fornication, Eze 16:36. 3. It

signifies a serpent, but of what kind is not determined. In

Job 26:13, it seems to mean the

whale or hippopotamus: By his spirit he hath garnished the

heavens, his hand hath formed the crooked serpent, nachash

bariach: as barach signifies to pass on or pass

through, and beriach is used for a bar of a gate or door

that passed through rings, &c., the idea of straightness rather

than crookedness should be attached to it here; and it is likely

that the hippopotamus or sea-horse is intended by it.

In Ec 10:11, the creature called

nachash, of whatever sort, is compared to the babbler: Surely

the serpent ( nachash) will bite without enchantment; and a

babbler is no better.

In Isa 27:1, the

crocodile or alligator seems particularly meant by the original:

In that day the Lord-shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent,

&c. And in Isa 65:25, the same creature is meant as in Ge 3:1,

for in the words, And dust shall be the serpent's meat, there is

an evident allusion to the text of Moses. In Am 9:3, the

crocodile is evidently intended: Though they be hid in the

bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, (

hannachash,) and he shall bite them. No person can suppose that

any of the snake or serpent kind can be intended here; and we see

from the various acceptations of the word, and the different

senses which it bears in various places in the sacred writings,

that it appears to be a sort of general term confined to no one

sense. Hence it will be necessary to examine the root accurately,

to see if its ideal meaning will enable us to ascertain the animal

intended in the text. We have already seen that nachash

signifies to view attentively, to acquire knowledge or experience

by attentive observation; so nichashti, Ge 30:27:

I have learned by experience; and this seems to be its most

general meaning in the Bible. The original word is by the

Septuagint translated οφις, a serpent, not because this was its

fixed determinate meaning in the sacred writings, but because it

was the best that occurred to the translators: and they do not

seem to have given themselves much trouble to understand the

meaning of the original, for they have rendered the word as

variously as our translators have done, or rather our translators

have followed them, as they give nearly the same significations

found in the Septuagint: hence we find that οφις is as frequently

used by them as serpent, its supposed literal meaning, is used in

our version. And the New Testament writers, who seldom quote the

Old Testament but from the Septuagint translation, and often do

not change even a word in their quotations, copy this version in

the use of this word. From the Septuagint therefore we can expect

no light, nor indeed from any other of the ancient versions, which

are all subsequent to the Septuagint, and some of them actually

made from it. In all this uncertainty it is natural for a serious

inquirer after truth to look everywhere for information. And in

such an inquiry the Arabic may be expected to afford some help,

from its great similarity to the Hebrew. A root in this language,

very nearly similar to that in the text, seems to cast

considerable light on the subject. [Arabic] chanas or khanasa

signifies he departed, drew off, lay hid, seduced, slunk away;

from this root come [Arabic] akhnas, [Arabic] khanasa, and

[Arabic] khanoos, which all signify an ape, or satyrus, or any

creature of the simia or ape genus. It is very remarkable also

that from the same root comes [Arabic] khanas, the DEVIL, which

appellative he bears from that meaning of [Arabic] khanasa, he

drew off, seduced, &c., because he draws men off from

righteousness, seduces them from their obedience to God, &c., &c.

See Golius, sub voce. Is it not strange that the devil and the

ape should have the same name, derived from the same root, and

that root so very similar to the word in the text? But let us

return and consider what is said of the creature in question. Now

the nachash was more subtle, arum, more wise, cunning, or

prudent, than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.

In this account we find, 1. That whatever this nachash was, he

stood at the head of all inferior animals for wisdom and

understanding. 2. That he walked erect, for this is necessarily

implied in his punishment-on thy belly (i.e., on all fours) shalt

thou go. 3. That he was endued with the gift of speech, for a

conversation is here related between him and the woman. 4. That

he was also endued with the gift of reason, for we find him

reasoning and disputing with Eve. 5. That these things were

common to this creature, the woman no doubt having often seen

him walk erect, talk, and reason, and therefore she testifies no

kind of surprise when he accosts her in the language related in

the text; and indeed from the manner in which this is introduced

it appears to be only a part of a conversation that had passed

between them on the occasion: Yea, hath God said, &c.

Had this creature never been known to speak before his

addressing the woman at this time and on this subject, it could

not have failed to excite her surprise, and to have filled her

with caution, though from the purity and innocence of her nature

she might have been incapable of being affected with fear. Now I

apprehend that none of these things can be spoken of a serpent of

any species. 1. None of them ever did or ever can walk erect. The

tales we have had of two-footed and four-footed serpents are

justly exploded by every judicious naturalist, and are utterly

unworthy of credit. The very name serpent comes from serpo, to

creep, and therefore to such it could be neither curse nor

punishment to go on their bellies, i.e., to creep on, as they

had done from their creation, and must do while their race

endures. 2. They have no organs for speech, or any kind of

articulate sound; they can only hiss. It is true that an ass by

miraculous influence may speak; but it is not to be supposed that

there was any miraculous interference here. GOD did not qualify

this creature with speech for the occasion, and it is not

intimated that there was any other agent that did it; on the

contrary, the text intimates that speech and reason were natural

to the nachash: and is it not in reference to this the inspired

penman says, The nachash was more subtle or intelligent than all

the beasts of the field that the Lord God had made? Nor can I

find that the serpentine genus are remarkable for intelligence. It

is true the wisdom of the serpent has passed into a proverb, but I

cannot see on what it is founded, except in reference to the

passage in question, where the nachash, which we translate

serpent, following the Septuagint, shows so much intelligence

and cunning: and it is very probable that our Lord alludes to this

very place when he exhorts his disciples to be wise-prudent or

intelligent, as serpents, φρονιμοιωςοιοπεις and it is worthy

of remark that he uses the same term employed by the Septuagint in

the text in question: οφιςηνφπονιμωτατος, the serpent was more

prudent or intelligent than all the beasts, &c. All these things

considered, we are obliged to seek for some other word to

designate the nachash in the text, than the word serpent, which on

every view of the subject appears to me inefficient and

inapplicable. We have seen above that khanas, akhnas, and

khanoos, signify a creature of the ape or satyrus kind. We

have seen that the meaning of the root is, he lay hid, seduced,

slunk away, &c.; and that khanas means the devil, as the

inspirer of evil, and seducer from God and truth. See Golius and

Wilmet. It therefore appears to me that a creature of the ape

or ouran outang kind is here intended; and that Satan made use of

this creature as the most proper instrument for the accomplishment

of his murderous purposes against the life and soul of man. Under

this creature he lay hid, and by this creature he seduced our

first parents, and drew off or slunk away from every eye but the

eye of God. Such a creature answers to every part of the

description in the text: it is evident from the structure of its

limbs and their muscles that it might have been originally

designed to walk erect, and that nothing less than a sovereign

controlling power could induce them to put down hands in every

respect formed like those of man, and walk like those creatures

whose claw-armed paws prove them to have been designed to walk on

all fours. Dr. Tyson has observed in his anatomy of an ouran

outang, that the seminal vessels passed between the two coats of

the peritoneum to the scrotum, as in man; hence he argues that

this creature was designed to walk erect, as it is otherwise in

all quadrupeds. Philos. Trans., vol. xxi., p. 340. The subtlety,

cunning, endlessly varied pranks and tricks of these creatures,

show them, even now, to be more subtle and more intelligent than

any other creature, man alone excepted. Being obliged now to walk

on all fours, and gather their food from the ground, they are

literally obliged to eat the dust; and though exceedingly cunning,

and careful in a variety of instances to separate that part which

is wholesome and proper for food from that which is not so, in the

article of cleanliness they are lost to all sense of propriety;

and though they have every means in their power of cleansing the

aliments they gather off the ground, and from among the dust, yet

they never in their savage state make use of any, except a slight

rub against their side, or with one of their hands, more to see

what the article is than to cleanse it. Add to this, their utter

aversion to walk upright; it requires the utmost discipline to

bring them to it, and scarcely anything irritates them more than

to be obliged to do it. Long observation on some of these animals

enables me to state these facts.

Should any person who may read this note object against my

conclusions, because apparently derived from an Arabic word which

is not exactly similar to the Hebrew, though to those who

understand both languages the similarity will be striking; yet, as

I do not insist on the identity of the terms, though important

consequences have been derived from less likely etymologies, he is

welcome to throw the whole of this out of the account. He may

then take up the Hebrew root only, which signifies to gaze, to

view attentively, pry into, inquire narrowly, &c., and consider

the passage that appears to compare the nachash to the babbler.

Ec 10:11, and he will soon find, if he have any acquaintance

with creatures of this genus, that for earnest, attentive

watching, looking, &c., and for chattering or babbling, they have

no fellows in the animal world. Indeed, the ability and

propensity to chatter is all they have left, according to the

above hypothesis, of their original gift of speech, of which I

suppose them to have been deprived at the fall as a part of their

punishment.

I have spent the longer time on this subject, 1. Because it is

exceedingly obscure; 2. Because no interpretation hitherto given

of it has afforded me the smallest satisfaction; 3. Because I

think the above mode of accounting for every part of the whole

transaction is consistent and satisfactory, and in my opinion

removes many embarrassments, and solves the chief difficulties. I

think it can be no solid objection to the above mode of solution

that Satan, in different parts of the New Testament, is called the

serpent, the serpent that deceived Eve by his subtlety, the old

serpent, &c., for we have already seen that the New Testament

writers have borrowed the word from the Septuagint, and the

Septuagint themselves use it in a vast variety and latitude of

meaning; and surely the ouran outang is as likely to be the

animal in question as nachash and οφις ophis are likely

to mean at once a snake, a crocodile, a hippopotamus, fornication,

a chain, a pair of fetters, a piece of brass, a piece of

steel, and a conjurer; for we have seen above that all these are

acceptations of the original word. Besides, the New Testament

writers seem to lose sight of the animal or instrument used on the

occasion, and speak only of Satan himself as the cause of the

transgression, and the instrument of all evil. If, however, any

person should choose to differ from the opinion stated above, he

is at perfect liberty so to do; I make it no article of faith, nor

of Christian communion; I crave the same liberty to judge for

myself that I give to others, to which every man has an

indisputable right; and I hope no man will call me a heretic for

departing in this respect from the common opinion, which appears

to me to be so embarrassed as to be altogether unintelligible. See

farther on Ge 3:7-14, &c.

Yea, hath God said] This seems to be the continuation of a

discourse of which the preceding part is not given, and a proof

that the creature in question was endued with the gift of reason

and speech, for no surprise is testified on the part of Eve.

Verse 3. Neither shall ye touch it] Did not the woman add this

to what God had before spoken? Some of the Jewish writers, who

are only serious on comparative trifles, state that as soon as the

woman had asserted this, the serpent pushed her against the tree

and said, "See, thou hast touched it, and art still alive; thou

mayest therefore safely eat of the fruit, for surely thou shalt

not die."

Verse 4. Ye shall not surely die] Here the father of lies at

once appears; and appears too in flatly contradicting the

assertion of God. The tempter, through the nachash, insinuates the

impossibility of her dying, as if he had said, God has created

thee immortal, thy death therefore is impossible; and God knows

this, for as thou livest by the tree of life, so shalt thou get

increase of wisdom by the tree of knowledge.

Verse 5. Your eyes shall be opened] Your understanding shall be

greatly enlightened and improved; and ye shall be as gods,

kelohim, like God, so the word should be translated; for what

idea could our first parents have of gods before idolatry could

have had any being, because sin had not yet entered into the

world? The Syriac has the word in the singular number, and is the

only one of all the versions which has hit on the true meaning. As

the original word is the same which is used to point out the

Supreme Being, Ge 1:1, so it has here the same signification, and

the object of the tempter appears to have been this: to persuade

our first parents that they should, by eating of this fruit,

become wise and powerful as God, (for knowledge is power,) and be

able to exist for ever, independently of him.

Verse 6. The tree was good for food] 1. The fruit appeared to

be wholesome and nutritive. And that it was pleasant to the eyes.

2. The beauty of the fruit tended to whet and increase appetite.

And a tree to be desired to make one wise, which was, 3. An

additional motive to please the palate. From these three sources

all natural and moral evil sprang: they are exactly what the

apostle calls the desire of the flesh; the tree was good for food:

the desire of the eye; it was pleasant to the sight: and the pride

of life; it was a tree to be desired to make one wise. God had

undoubtedly created our first parents not only very wise and

intelligent, but also with a great capacity and suitable

propensity to increase in knowledge. Those who think that Adam was

created so perfect as to preclude the possibility of his increase

in knowledge, have taken a very false view of the subject. We

shall certainly be convinced that our first parents were in a

state of sufficient perfection when we consider, 1. That they

were endued with a vast capacity to obtain knowledge. 2. That all

the means of information were within their reach. 3. That there

was no hinderance to the most direct conception of occurring

truth. 4. That all the objects of knowledge, whether natural or

moral, were ever at hand. 5. That they had the strongest

propensity to know; and, 6. The greatest pleasure in knowing. To

have God and nature continually open to the view of the soul; and

to have a soul capable of viewing both, and fathoming endlessly

their unbounded glories and excellences, without hinderance or

difficulty; what a state of perfection! what a consummation of

bliss! This was undoubtedly the state and condition of our first

parents; even the present ruins of the state are incontestable

evidences of its primitive excellence. We see at once how

transgression came; it was natural for them to desire to be

increasingly wise. God had implanted this desire in their minds;

but he showed them that this desire should be gratified in a

certain way; that prudence and judgment should always regulate

it; that they should carefully examine what God had opened to

their view; and should not pry into what he chose to conceal. He

alone who knows all things knows how much knowledge the soul needs

to its perfection and increasing happiness, in what subjects this

may be legitimately sought, and where the mind may make excursions

and discoveries to its prejudice and ruin. There are doubtless

many subjects which angels are capable of knowing, and which God

chooses to conceal even from them, because that knowledge would

tend neither to their perfection nor happiness. Of every

attainment and object of pursuit it may be said, in the words of

an ancient poet, who conceived correctly on the subject, and

expressed his thoughts with perspicuity and energy:-

Est modus in rebus: sunt certi denique fines,

Quos ulta citraque nequit consistere rectum.

HOR. Sat., lib. i., Sat. 1., ver. 106.

"There is a rule for all things; there are in fine fixed and

stated limits, on either side of which righteousness cannot be

found." On the line of duty alone we must walk.

Such limits God certainly assigned from the beginning: Thou

shalt come up to this; thou shalt not pass it. And as he assigned

the limits, so he assigned the means. It is lawful for thee to

acquire knowledge in this way; it is unlawful to seek it in that.

And had he not a right to do so? And would his creation have been

perfect without it?

Verse 7. The eyes of them both were opened] They now had a

sufficient discovery of their sin and folly in disobeying the

command of God; they could discern between good and evil; and what

was the consequence? Confusion and shame were engendered, because

innocence was lost and guilt contracted.

Let us review the whole of this melancholy business, the fall

and its effects.

1. From the New Testament we learn that Satan associated himself

with the creature which we term the serpent, and the original the

nachash, in order to seduce and ruin mankind;

2Co 11:3 Re 12:9 20:2. 2. That this creature was the most

suitable to his purpose, as being the most subtle, the most

intelligent and cunning of all beasts of the field, endued with

the gift of speech and reason, and consequently one in which he

could best conceal himself. 3. As he knew that while they

depended on God they could not be ruined, he therefore

endeavoured to seduce them from this dependence. 4. He does this

by working on that propensity of the mind to desire an increase of

knowledge, with which God, for the most gracious purposes, had

endued it. 5. In order to succeed, he insinuates that God,

through motives of envy, had given the prohibition-God doth know

that in the day ye eat of it, ye shall be like himself, &c. 6. As

their present state of blessedness must be inexpressibly dear to

them, he endeavours to persuade them that they could not fall from

this state: Ye shall not surely die -ye shall not only retain your

present blessedness, but it shall be greatly increased; a

temptation by which he has ever since fatally succeeded in the

ruin of multitudes of souls, whom he persuaded that being once

right they could never finally go wrong. 7. As he kept the

unlawfulness of the means proposed out of sight, persuaded them

that they could not fall from their steadfastness, assured them

that they should resemble God himself, and consequently be

self-sufficient, and totally independent of him; they listened,

and fixing their eye only on the promised good, neglecting the

positive command, and determining to become wise and independent

at all events, they took of the fruit and did eat.

Let us now examine the effects.

1. Their eyes were opened, and they saw they were naked. They

saw what they never saw before, that they were stripped of their

excellence; that they had lost their innocence; and that they had

fallen into a state of indigence and danger. 2. Though their eyes

were opened to see their nakedness, yet their mind was clouded,

and their judgment confused. They seem to have lost all just

notions of honour and dishonour, of what was shameful and what was

praise-worthy. It was dishonourable and shameful to break the

commandment of God; but it was neither to go naked, when clothing

was not necessary. 3. They seem in a moment, not only to have

lost sound judgment, but also reflection: a short time before Adam

was so wise that he could name all the creatures brought before

him, according to their respective natures and qualities; now he

does not know the first principle concerning the Divine nature,

that it knows all things, and that it is omnipresent, therefore he

endeavours to hide himself among the trees from the eye of the

all-seeing God! How astonishing is this! When the creatures

were brought to him he could name them, because he could discern

their respective natures and properties; when Eve was brought to

him he could immediately tell what she was, who she was, and for

what end made, though he was in a deep sleep when God formed

her; and this seems to be particularly noted, merely to show the

depth of his wisdom, and the perfection of his discernment. But

alas! how are the mighty fallen! Compare his present with his

past state, his state before the transgression with his state

after it; and say, is this the same creature? the creature of

whom God said, as he said of all his works, He is very good-just

what he should be, a living image of the living God; but now lower

than the beasts of the field? 4. This account could never have

been credited had not the indisputable proofs and evidences of it

been continued by uninterrupted succession to the present time.

All the descendants of this first guilty pair resemble their

degenerate ancestors, and copy their conduct. The original mode

of transgression is still continued, and the original sin in

consequence. Here are the proofs. 1. Every human being is

endeavouring to obtain knowledge by unlawful means, even while the

lawful means and every available help are at hand. 2. They are

endeavouring to be independent, and to live without God in the

world; hence prayer, the language of dependence on God's

providence and grace, is neglected, I might say detested, by the

great majority of men. Had I no other proof than this that man is

a fallen creature, my soul would bow to this evidence. 3. Being

destitute of the true knowledge of God they seek privacy for their

crimes, not considering that the eye of God is upon them, being

only solicitous to hide them from the eye of man. These are all

proofs in point; but we shall soon meet with additional ones. See

on Ge 3:10, 12.

Verse 8. The voice of the Lord] The voice is properly used

here, for as God is an infinite Spirit, and cannot be confined to

any form, so he can have no personal appearance. It is very

likely that God used to converse with them in the garden, and that

the usual time was the decline of the day, leruach

haiyom, in the evening breeze; and probably this was the time that

our first parents employed in the more solemn acts of their

religious worship, at which God was ever present. The time for

this solemn worship is again come, and God is in his place; but

Adam and Eve have sinned, and therefore, instead of being found in

the place of worship, are hidden among the trees! Reader, how

often has this been thy case!

Verse 10. I was afraid, because I was naked] See the immediate

consequences of sin. 1. SHAME, because of the ingratitude marked

in the rebellion, and because that in aiming to be like God they

were now sunk into a state of the greatest wretchedness. 2. FEAR,

because they saw they had been deceived by Satan, and were exposed

to that death and punishment from which he had promised them an

exemption. How worthy is it of remark that this cause continues to

produce the very same effects! Shame and fear were the first

fruits of sin, and fruits which it has invariably produced, from

the first transgression to the present time.

Verse 12. And the man said, &c.] We have here some farther

proofs of the fallen state of man, and that the consequences of

that state extend to his remotest posterity. 1. On the question,

Hast thou eaten of the tree? Adam is obliged to acknowledge his

transgression; but he does this in such a way as to shift off the

blame from himself, and lay it upon God and upon the woman! This

woman whom THOU didst give to be with me, immadi, to be my

companion, (for so the word is repeatedly used,) she gave me, and

I did eat. I have no farther blame in this transgression; I did

not pluck the fruit; she took it and gave it to me. 2. When the

woman is questioned she lays the blame upon God and the serpent,

(nachash.) The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Thou didst

make him much wiser than thou didst make me, and therefore my

simplicity and ignorance were overcome by his superior wisdom and

subtlety; I can have no fault here, the fault is his, and his who

made him so wise and me so ignorant. Thus we find that, while the

eyes of their body were opened to see their degraded state, the

eyes of their understanding were closed, so that they could not

see the sinfulness of sin; and at the same time their hearts were

hardened through its deceitfulness. In this also their posterity

copy their example. How few ingenuously confess their own sin!

They see not their guilt. They are continually making excuses for

their crimes; the strength and subtlety of the tempter, the

natural weakness of their own minds, the unfavourable

circumstances in which they were placed, &c., &c., are all pleaded

as excuses for their sins, and thus the possibility of repentance

is precluded; for till a man take his sin to himself, till he

acknowledge that he alone is guilty, he cannot be humbled, and

consequently cannot be saved. Reader, till thou accuse thyself,

and thyself only, and feel that thou alone art responsible for all

thy iniquities, there is no hope of thy salvation.

Verse 14. And the Lord God said unto the serpent] The tempter

is not asked why he deceived the woman; he cannot roll the blame

on any other; self-tempted he fell, and it is natural for him,

such is his enmity, to deceive and destroy all he can. His fault

admits of no excuse, and therefore God begins to pronounce

sentence on him first. And here we must consider a twofold

sentence, one on Satan and the other on the agent he employed. The

nachash, whom I suppose to have been at the head of all the

inferior animals, and in a sort of society and intimacy with man,

is to be greatly degraded, entirely banished from human society,

and deprived of the gift of speech. Cursed art thou above all

cattle, and above every beast of the field-thou shalt be

considered the most contemptible of animals; upon thy belly shalt

thou go-thou shalt no longer walk erect, but mark the ground

equally with thy hands and feet; and dust shalt thou eat-though

formerly possessed of the faculty to distinguish, choose, and

cleanse thy food, thou shalt feed henceforth like the most stupid

and abject quadruped, all the days of thy life-through all the

innumerable generations of thy species. God saw meet to manifest

his displeasure against the agent employed in this melancholy

business; and perhaps this is founded on the part which the

intelligent and subtle nachash took in the seduction of our first

parents. We see that he was capable of it, and have some reason

to believe that he became a willing instrument.

Verse 15. I will put enmity between thee and the woman] This

has been generally supposed to apply to a certain enmity

subsisting between men and serpents; but this is rather a fancy

than a reality. It is yet to be discovered that the serpentine

race have any peculiar enmity against mankind, nor is there any

proof that men hate serpents more than they do other noxious

animals. Men have much more enmity to the common rat and magpie

than they have to all the serpents in the land, because the former

destroy the grain, &c., and serpents in general, far from seeking

to do men mischief, flee his approach, and generally avoid his

dwelling. If, however, we take the word nachash to mean any of

the simia or ape species, we find a more consistent meaning, as

there is scarcely an animal in the universe so detested by most

women as these are; and indeed men look on them as continual

caricatures of themselves. But we are not to look for merely

literal meanings here: it is evident that Satan, who actuated

this creature, is alone intended in this part of the prophetic

declaration. God in his endless mercy has put enmity between men

and him; so that, though all mankind love his service, yet all

invariably hate himself. Were it otherwise, who could be saved? A

great point gained towards the conversion of a sinner is to

convince him that it is Satan he has been serving, that it is to

him he has been giving up his soul, body, goods, &c.; he starts

with horror when this conviction fastens on his mind, and shudders

at the thought of being in league with the old murderer. But

there is a deeper meaning in the text than even this, especially

in these words, it shall bruise thy head, or rather, hu, HE;

who? the seed of the woman; the person is to come by the woman,

and by her alone, without the concurrence of man. Therefore the

address is not to Adam and Eve, but to Eve alone; and it was in

consequence of this purpose of God that Jesus Christ was born of a

virgin; this, and this alone, is what is implied in the promise of

the seed of the woman bruising the head of the serpent. Jesus

Christ died to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and to

destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. Thus

he bruises his head-destroys his power and lordship over

mankind, turning them from the power of Satan unto God; Ac 26:18.

And Satan bruises his heel-God so ordered it, that the salvation

of man could only be brought about by the death of Christ; and

even the spiritual seed of our blessed Lord have the heel often

bruised, as they suffer persecution, temptation, &c., which may be

all that is intended by this part of the prophecy.

Verse 16. Unto the woman he said] She being second in the

transgression is brought up the second to receive her

condemnation, and to hear her punishment: I will greatly multiply,

or multiplying I will multiply; i.e., I will multiply thy sorrows,

and multiply those sorrows by other sorrows, and this during

conception and pregnancy, and particularly so in parturition or

child-bearing. And this curse has fallen in a heavier degree on

the woman than on any other female. Nothing is better attested

than this, and yet there is certainly no natural reason why it

should be so; it is a part of her punishment, and a part from

which even God's mercy will not exempt her. It is added farther,

Thy desire shall be to thy husband -thou shalt not be able to

shun the great pain and peril of child-bearing, for thy desire,

thy appetite, shall be to thy husband; and he shall rule over

thee, though at their creation both were formed with equal rights,

and the woman had probably as much right to rule as the man; but

subjection to the will of her husband is one part of her curse;

and so very capricious is this will often, that a sorer punishment

no human being can well have, to be at all in a state of liberty,

and under the protection of wise and equal laws.

Verse 17. Unto Adam he said] The man being the last in the

transgression is brought up last to receive his sentence: Because

thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife-"thou wast not

deceived, she only gave and counselled thee to eat; this thou

shouldst have resisted;" and that he did not is the reason of his

condemnation. Cursed is the ground for thy sake-from henceforth

its fertility shall be greatly impaired; in sorrow shalt thou eat

of it-be in continual perplexity concerning the seed time and the

harvest, the cold and the heat, the wet and the dry. How often

are all the fruits of man's toll destroyed by blasting, by mildew,

by insects, wet weather, land floods, &c.! Anxiety and

carefulness are the labouring man's portion.

Verse 18. Thorns also and thistles, &c.] Instead of producing

nourishing grain and useful vegetables, noxious weeds shall be

peculiarly prolific, injure the ground, choke the good seed, and

mock the hopes of the husbandman; and thou shalt eat the herb of

the field-thou shalt no longer have the privilege of this garden

of delights, but must go to the common champaign country, and feed

on such herbs as thou canst find, till by labour and industry thou

hast raised others more suitable to thee and more comfortable.

In the curse pronounced on the ground there is much more implied

than generally appears. The amazing fertility of some of the most

common thistles and thorns renders them the most proper

instruments for the fulfilment of this sentence against man.

Thistles multiply enormously; a species called the Carolina

sylvestris bears ordinarily from 20 to 40 heads, each containing

from 100 to 150 seeds.

Another species, called the Acanthum vulgare, produces above 100

heads, each containing from 3 to 400 seeds. Suppose we say that

these thistles produce at a medium only 80 beads, and that each

contains only 300 seeds; the first crop from these would amount to

24,000. Let these be sown, and their crop will amount to 576

millions. Sow these, and their produce will be

13,824,000,000,000, or thirteen billions, eight hundred and

twenty-four thousand millions; and a single crop from these, which

is only the third year's growth, would amount to

331,776,000,000,000,000, or three hundred and thirty-one thousand

seven hundred and seventy-six billions; and the fourth year's

growth will amount to 7,962,624,000,000,000,000,000, or seven

thousand nine hundred and sixty-two trillions, six hundred and

twenty-four thousand billions. A progeny more than sufficient to

stock not only the surface of the whole world, but of all the

planets of the solar system, so that no other plant or vegetable

could possibly grow, allowing but the space of one square foot for

each plant.

The Carduus vulgatissimus viarum, or common hedge thistle,

besides the almost infinite swarms of winged seeds it sends forth,

spreads its roots around many yards, and throws up suckers

everywhere, which not only produce seeds in their turn, but extend

their roots, propagate like the parent plant, and stifle and

destroy all vegetation but their own.

As to THORNS, the bramble, which occurs so commonly, and is so

mischievous, is a sufficient proof how well the means are

calculated to secure the end. The genista, or spinosa vulgaris,

called by some furze, by others whins, is allowed to be one of the

most mischievous shrubs on the face of the earth. Scarcely any

thing can grow near it, and it is so thick set with prickles that

it is almost impossible to touch it without being wounded. It is

very prolific; almost half the year it is covered with flowers

which produce pods filled with seeds. Besides. it shoots out

roots far and wide, from which suckers and young plants are

continually springing up, which produce others in their turn.

Where it is permitted to grow it soon overspreads whole tracts of

ground, and it is extremely difficult to clear the ground of its

roots where once it has got proper footing. Such provision has the

just God made to fulfil the curse which he has pronounced on the

earth, because of the crimes of its inhabitants. See Hale's

Vegetable Statics.

Verse 19. In the sweat of thy face] Though the whole body may

be thrown into a profuse sweat, if hard labour be long continued,

yet the face or forehead is the first part whence this sweat

begins to issue; this is occasioned by the blood being strongly

propelled to the brain, partly through stooping, but principally

by the strong action of the muscles; in consequence of this the

blood vessels about the head become turgid through the great flux

of blood, the fibres are relaxed, the pores enlarged, and the

sweat or serum poured out. Thus then the very commencement of

every man's labour may put him in mind of his sin and its

consequences.

Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.] God had said

that in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, dying they should

die-they should then become mortal, and continue under the

influence of a great variety of unfriendly agencies in the

atmosphere and in themselves, from heats, colds, drought, and

damps in the one, and morbid increased and decreased action in the

solids and fluids of the other, till the spirit, finding its

earthly house no longer tenable, should return to God who gave it;

and the body, being decomposed, should be reduced to its primitive

dust. It is evident from this that man would have been immortal

had he never transgressed, and that this state of continual life

and health depended on his obedience to his Maker. The tree of

life, as we have already seen, was intended to be the means of

continual preservation. For as no being but God can exist

independently of any supporting agency, so man could not have

continued to live without a particular supporting agent; and this

supporting agent under God appears to have been the tree of life.

ολιγηδεκεισομεσθα

κονιςοστεωνλυθεντων

Anac. Od. 4., v. 9.

"We shall lie down as a small portion of dust, our bones being

dissolved."

Verse 20. And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was

the mother of all living.] A man who does not understand the

original cannot possibly comprehend the reason of what is said

here. What has the word Eve to do with being the mother of all

living? Our translators often follow the Septuagint; it is a pity

they had not done so here, as the Septuagint translation is

literal and correct: καιεκαλεσεναδαμτοονοματηςγυναικος

αυτουζωηοτιμητηρπαντωντωνζωντων "And Adam called his

wife's name Life, because she was the mother of all the living."

This is a proper and faithful representation of the Hebrew text,

for the Chavvah of the original, which we have corrupted into

Eve, a word destitute of all meaning, answers exactly to the ζωη

of the Septuagint, both signifying life; as does also the Hebrew

chai to the Greek ζωντων, both of which signify the living.

It is probable that God designed by this name to teach our first

parents these two important truths: 1. That though they had

merited immediate death, yet they should be respited, and the

accomplishment of the sentence be long delayed; they should be

spared to propagate a numerous progeny on the earth. 2. That

though much misery would be entailed on his posterity, and death

should have a long and universal empire, yet ONE should in the

fulness of time spring from the woman, who should destroy death,

and bring life and immortality to light, 2Ti 1:10. Therefore

Adam called his wife's name Life, because she was to be the mother

of all human beings, and because she was to be the mother of HIM

who was to give life to a world dead in trespasses, and dead in

sins, Eph 2:1, &c.

Verse 21. God made coats of skins] It is very likely that the

skins out of which their clothing was made were taken off

animals whose blood had been poured out as a sin-offering to God;

for as we find Cain and Abel offering sacrifices to God, we may

fairly presume that God had given them instructions on this head;

nor is it likely that the notion of a sacrifice could have ever

occurred to the mind of man without an express revelation from

God. Hence we may safely infer, 1. That as Adam and Eve needed

this clothing as soon as they fell, and death had not as yet made

any ravages in the animal world, it is most likely that the skins

were taken off victims offered under the direction of God himself,

and in faith of HIM who, in the fulness of time, was to make an

atonement by his death. And it seems reasonable also that this

matter should be brought about in such a way that Satan and death

should have no triumph, when the very first death that took place

in the world was an emblem and type of that death which should

conquer Satan, destroy his empire, reconcile God to man, convert

man to God, sanctify human nature, and prepare it for heaven.

Verse 22. Behold, the man is become as one of us] On all hands

this text is allowed to be difficult, and the difficulty is

increased by our translation, which is opposed to the original

Hebrew and the most authentic versions. The Hebrew has hayah,

which is the third person preterite tense, and signifies was, not

is. The Samaritan text, the Samaritan version, the Syriac,

and the Septuagint, have the same tense. These lead us to a very

different sense, and indicate that there is an ellipsis of some

words which must be supplied in order to make the sense complete.

A very learned man has ventured the following paraphrase, which

should not be lightly regarded: "And the Lord God said, The man

who WAS like one of us in purity and wisdom, is now fallen and

robbed of his excellence; he has added ladaath, to the

knowledge of the good, by his transgression the knowledge of the

evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the

tree of life, and eat and live for ever in this miserable state, I

will remove him, and guard the place lest he should re-enter.

Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden,"

&c. This seems to be the most natural sense of the place. Some

suppose that his removal from the tree of life was in mercy, to

prevent a second temptation. He before imagined that he could

gain an increase of wisdom by eating of the tree of knowledge, and

Satan would be disposed to tempt him to endeavour to elude the

sentence of death, by eating of the tree of life. Others imagine

that the words are spoken ironically, and that the Most High

intended by a cutting taunt, to upbraid the poor culprit for his

offence, because he broke the Divine command in the expectation of

being like God to know good from evil; and now that he had lost

all the good that God had designed for him, and got nothing but

evil in its place, therefore God taunts him for the total

miscarriage of his project. But God is ever consistent with

himself; and surely his infinite pity prohibited the use of either

sarcasm or irony, in speaking of so dreadful a catastrophe, that

was in the end to occasion the agony and bloody sweat, the cross

and passion, the death and burial, of Him in whom dwelt all the

fulness of the Godhead bodily, Col 2:9.

In Ge 1:26,27, we have seen man in the perfection of his

nature, the dignity of his office, and the plenitude of his

happiness. Here we find the same creature, but stripped of his

glories and happiness, so that the word man no longer conveys the

same ideas it did before. Man and intellectual excellence were

before so intimately connected as to appear inseparable; man and

misery are now equally so. In our nervous mother tongue, the

Anglo-Saxon, we have found the word [A.S.] God signifying, not

only the Supreme Being, but also good or goodness; and it is

worthy of especial note that the word [A.S.] man, in the same

language, is used to express, not only the human being so called,

both male and female, but also mischief, wickedness, fraud,

deceit, and villany. Thus a simple monosyllable, still in use

among us in its first sense, conveyed at once to the minds of our

ancestors the two following particulars: 1. The human being in

his excellence, capable of knowing, loving, and glorifying his

Maker. 2. The human being in his fallen state, capable of and

committing all kinds of wickedness. "Obiter hic notandum," says

old Mr. Somner in his Saxon Dictionary, "venit, [A.S.] Saxonibus

et DEUM significasse et BONUM: uti [A.S.] et hominem et nequitiam.

Here it is to be noted, that among the Saxons the term GOD

signified both the Divine Being and goodness, as the word man

signified both the human being and wickedness." This is an

additional proof that our Saxon ancestors both thought and spoke

at the same time, which, strange as it may appear, is not a common

case: their words in general are not arbitrary signs; but as far

as sounds can convey the ideal meaning of things, their words do

it; and they are so formed and used as necessarily to bring to

view the nature and proper ties of those things of which they are

the signs. In this sense the Anglo-Saxon is inferior only to the

Hebrew.

Verse 24. So he drove out the man] Three things are noted here:

1. God's displeasure against sinful man, evidenced by his

expelling him from this place of blessedness; 2. Man's unfitness

for the place, of which he had rendered himself unworthy by his

ingratitude and transgression; and, 3. His reluctance to leave

this place of happiness. He was, as we may naturally conclude,

unwilling to depart, and God drove him out.

He placed at the east] mikkedem, or before the garden

of Eden, before what may be conceived its gate or entrance;

Cherubims, hakkerubim, THE cherubim. Hebrew plurals

in the masculine end in general in im: to add an s to this when we

introduce such words into English, is very improper; therefore the

word should be written cherubim, not cherubims. But what were

these? They are utterly unknown. Conjectures and guesses relative

to their nature and properties are endless. Several think them to

have been emblematical representations of the sacred Trinity, and

bring reasons and scriptures in support of their opinion; but as I

am not satisfied that this opinion is correct, I will not trouble

the reader with it. From the description in Ex 26:1,31;

1Ki 6:29,32; 2Ch 3:14, it appears that the cherubs were

sometimes represented with two faces, namely, those of a lion and

of a man; but from Eze 1:5, &c.;Eze 10:20,21, we find that they

had four faces and four wings; the faces were those of a man, a

lion, an ox, and an eagle; but it seems there was but one body

to these heads. The two-faced cherubs were such as were

represented on the curtains and veil of the tabernacle, and on

the wall, doors, and veil of the temple; those with four faces

appeared only in the holy of holies.

The word or kerub never appears as a verb in the

Hebrew Bible, and therefore is justly supposed to be a word

compounded of ke a particle of resemblance, like to, like as,

and rab, he was great, powerful, &c. Hence it is very likely

that the cherubs, to whatever order of beings they belonged, were

emblems of the ALL-MIGHTY, and were those creatures by whom he

produced the great effects of his power. The word rab is a

character of the Most High, Pr 26:10:

The great God who formed all; and again in Ps 48:2, where he is

called the Great King, melech rab. But though this is

rarely applied as a character of the Supreme Being in the Hebrew

Bible, yet it is a common appellative of the Deity in the Arabic

language. [Arabic] rab, and [Arabic] rab'ulalameen Lord of both

worlds, or, Lord of the universe, are expressions repeatedly used

to point out the almighty energy and supremacy of God. On this

ground, I suppose, the cherubim were emblematical representations

of the eternal power and Godhead of the Almighty. These angelic

beings were for a time employed in guarding the entrance to

Paradise, and keeping the way of or road to the tree of life.

This, I say, for a time; for it is very probable that God soon

removed the tree of life, and abolished the garden, so that its

situation could never after be positively ascertained.

By the flaming sword turning every way, or flame folding back

upon itself, we may understand the formidable appearances which

these cherubim assumed, in order to render the passage to the tree

of life inaccessible.

Thus terminates this most awful tragedy; a tragedy in which all

the actors are slain, in which the most awful murders are

committed, and the whole universe ruined! The serpent, so called,

is degraded; the woman cursed with pains, miseries, and a

subjection to the will of her husband, which was never originally

designed; the man, the lord of this lower world, doomed to

incessant labour and toil; and the earth itself cursed with

comparative barrenness! To complete all, the garden of pleasure is

interdicted, and this man, who was made after the image of God,

and who would be like him, shamefully expelled from a place where

pure spirits alone could dwell. Yet in the midst of wrath God

remembers mercy, and a promise of redemption from this degraded

and cursed state is made to them through HIM who, in the fulness

of time, is to be made flesh, and who, by dying for the sin of the

world, shall destroy the power of Satan, and deliver all who trust

in the merit of his sacrifice from the power, guilt, and nature of

sin, and thus prepare them for the celestial Paradise at the right

hand of God. Reader, hast thou repented of thy sin? for often

hast thou sinned after the similitude of thy ancestor's

transgression. Hast thou sought and found redemption in the blood

of the Lamb? Art thou saved from a disposition which led thy

first parents to transgress? Art thou living a life of dependence

on thy Creator, and of faith and loving obedience to him who died

for thee? Wilt thou live under the curse, and die eternally? God

forbid! Return to him with all thy soul, and receive this

exhortation as a call from his mercy.

To what has already been said on the awful contents of this

chapter, I can add little that can either set it in a clearer

light, or make its solemn subject more impressive. We see here

that by the subtlety and envy of the devil sin entered into the

world, and death by sin; and we find that death reigned, not only

from Adam to Moses, but from Moses to the present day. Flow

abominable must sin be in the sight of God, when it has not only

defaced his own image from the soul of man, but has also become a

source of natural and moral evil throughout every part of the

globe! Disruption and violence appear in every part of nature;

vice, profligacy, and misery, through all the tribes of men and

orders of society. It is true that where sin hath abounded, there

grace doth much more abound; but men shut their eyes against the

light, and harden their hearts against the truth. Sin, which

becomes propagated into the world by natural generation, growing

with the growth and strengthening with the strength of man, would

be as endless in its duration, as unlimited in its influence, did

not God check and restrain it by his grace, and cut off its

extending influence in the incorrigibly wicked by means of death.

How wonderful is the economy of God! That which entered into the

world as one of the prime fruits and effects of sin, is now an

instrument in his hands to prevent the extension of its contagion.

If men, now so greatly multiplied on the earth, and fertile in

mischievous inventions, were permitted to live nearly a thousand

years, as in the ancient world, to mature and perfect their

infectious and destructive counsels, what a sum of iniquity and

ruin would the face of the earth present! Even while they are

laying plans to extend the empire of death, God, by the very means

of death itself, prevents the completion of their pernicious and

diabolic designs. Thus what man, by his wilful obstinacy does not

permit grace to correct and restrain, God, by his sovereign power,

brings in death to control. It is on this ground that wicked and

blood-thirsty men live not out half their days; and what a mercy

to the world that it is so! They who will not submit to the

sceptre of mercy shall be broken in pieces by the rod of iron.

Reader, provoke not the Lord to displeasure; thou art not stronger

than he. Grieve not his Spirit, provoke him not to destroy thee;

why shouldst thou die before thy time? Thou hast sinned much, and

needest every moment of thy short life to make thy calling and

election sure. Shouldst thou provoke God, by thy perseverance in

iniquity, to cut thee off by death before this great work is done,

better for thee thou hadst never been born!

How vain are all attempts to attain immortality here! For some

thousands of years men have been labouring to find out means to

prevent death; and some have even boasted that they had found out

a medicine capable of preserving life for ever, by resisting all

the attacks of disease, and incessantly repairing all the wastes

of the human machine. That is, the alchymistic philosophers would

have the world to believe that they had found out a private

passage to the tree of immortality; but their own deaths, in the

common order of nature, as well as the deaths of the millions

which make no such pretensions, are not only a sufficient

confutation of their baseless systems, but also a continual proof

that the cherubim, with their flaming swords, are turning every

way to keep the passage of the tree of life. Life and immortality

are, however, brought to light by the Gospel; and he only who

keepeth the sayings of the Son of God shall live for ever. Though

the body is dead-consigned to death, because of sin, yet the

spirit is life because of righteousness; and on those who are

influenced by this Spirit of righteousness, the second death shall

have no power!

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